Most CIO’s are well aware of what causes sleepless nights and are actively focusing on solutions and risk mitigation strategies. The three biggest worries are usually defined as: keeping the system up and running, cyber-security, and migration to digital platforms. A failure of any one often results in a quick elevator ride to the ground floor, minus badge and keys.
It’s not what you know that hurts you, but what you don’t know.
However, there is a significant threat to the CIO that often goes unnoticed until it is too late. A threat that trips up even the most savvy CIO. A threat that remains in plain sight. A threat that is often taken for granted.
That invisible threat is “lack of aligned execution”. Plans are developed, matched with strategic objectives, teams and budgets put in place. But are you certain that what starts at the top really gets implemented, as agreed, four or five levels down, where the real work is done? And are you certain the contractors and outsourced staff are working on what was agreed at the top?
Current studies inside of large organizations has shown that between 30-40% of IT projects consuming manpower and money do not link directly to the IT strategy! Where could you better put those people and that money to use? Will one of those nonaligned projects come back to haunt you or the business? Risk multiplies when you don’t know what is going on inside our own company. And you can’t just assume!
In technology, more than anywhere else, we know that an assumption is not good data. Good data is facts with metrics and tracking.
“In God we trust; all others must bring data.” ~W. Edwards Deming
Alignment for Execution
A CIO who can answer these questions quickly and easily, with facts, will sleep better at night.
- Do I have line-of-sight from strategic objectives to specific project deliverables?
- Can I easily get frequent updates on project milestones and delivery schedules?
- Do I know, in advance, that projects are falling behind?
- Do we have ROI metrics in place for all major projects?
- Can I quickly communicate with an entire project team, or do I have to go through people and channels?
- Do people feel accountable for deliverables or activities?
- Am I certain the project being funded are designed to “move the needle”?
- Is there a single person accountable for each project who takes full accountability, or is it “distributed accountability”?
- Do we have frequent and regular strategy execution governance meetings?
- Do people leading projects know and understand what the other projects are and how they all fit together?
- Are teams staff with cross-functional experts or the same names and faces?
- How many weeks pass before you know a project is in trouble or behind schedule?
- Is my team managing behaviours as well as tasks? Bad behaviour creates more risk than technical mistakes.
And the most important question of all:
Do I have a robust IT strategy alignment and execution process in place?
According to one CIO, “Getting my leadership and technology teams aligned around our strategy was the most important step in ensuring we delivered for the business. Once there is alignment among people and objectives, the technology execution is relatively straightforward.”
From the early days of the Kaplan and Norton Balanced Scorecard (one of the first “Line-of-sight” strategy alignment processes) the tools and methodologies for alignment and execution have progressed considerably. In a recent book by 30+ year business veteran, John R Childress, FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution, a robust yet simple Line-of-Sight Roadmap and Governance process is described that can help instill the discipline, alignment and accountability required to deliver IT strategies.
And also a good night’s sleep.
Business Advisor and Author